Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson enters the 2016 season as one of the favorites in a star-studded Heisman Trophy competition, and he could very well help lead the Tigers back to an ACC title and a spot in the College Football Playoff. His skills have NFL fans already thinking about their franchise’s future every time they get a glimpse of Watson in action.
Despite a rising profile in the football world, many refer to Watson as a dual-threat quarterback, and he absolutely hates that.
In an interview with Bleacher Report, Watson opened up about his feelings about being called a dual-threat quarterback. It is a label he thinks carries a negative tone with it, and he wants to no longer hear it attributed with his playing.
“People say, well he’s a dual-threat quarterback. You look at that word…that’s a code word,” Watson said when asked about why he takes the label so personally. “People think, ‘Oh, he’s a black quarterback, he must be dual-threat.’ People throw around that word all the time. It’s lazy. The one thing I learned early on as a football player is people have their opinions, and I can’t change them. But I can show them what they’re missing.”
Watson clearly does not like people calling him a dual-threat quarterback. There is merit to the idea the term “dual-threat quarterback” has been used more liberally with black quarterbacks than white over the years, from Randall Cunningham to Mike Vick to Cam Newton and so on, and you can feel why a player like Watson would be offended at quickly being labeled as such based purely on the color of his skin.
The problem is, the reason he is a dual-threat quarterback is because, well, he is a dual-threat quarterback. That’s not a knock. That is the truth.
Last season, Watson was second on Clemson’s team in rushing with 1,105 yards and 12 touchdowns (Wayne Gallman rushed for 1,527 yards and 13 touchdowns). Watson was the eighth-leading rusher in the entire ACC and he tied for fourth in the conference in rushing touchdowns. He also led the ACC with 273.6 passing yards per game and 35 touchdowns, averaging 8.4 yards per pass attempt (good for second in the ACC behind UNC’s Marquise Williams). Nobody in the conference had a higher pass-completion percentage than Watson (67.8), and he was the only player to pass for more than 4,000 yards (although with the benefit of an ACC championship game and two College Football Playoff games for a 15-game season).
The simple fact of the matter is Watson is a dual-threat quarterback because he can beat you through the air and on the ground when and if needed. That is what a dual-threat quarterback is, and Watson is the textbook example of that this season.
Now, if Watson wants to take offense with the idea of quickly being labeled a running quarterback just because he is black, that is a different story, and that actually appears to be more of what he is getting at in his interview.
“People have assumed that I have to run the ball before I can throw it most all of my career, all the way back before high school,” Watson said. “It’s a stereotype put on me for a long time because I’m African-American and I’m a dual-threat quarterback. I don’t know why that stereotype is still around. It’s about talent and the ability to throw the ball, not the color of your skin or your ability to also be a dangerous runner.”
Look for a big year from Watson as he likely prepares to make the jump to the NFL in 2017. In the meantime, Watson will focus on doing his own thing and hopefully getting people to view and scout him differently.
“It bothered me when I was young until I finally realized the only way to change it is to make your mark on the field and force them to see. So that’s what I’ve been doing.”